Reno-area woman gets jail in dog assault
August 22, 2008
RENO ” A Nevada woman has been sentenced to five days in jail for hitting a dog with her SUV in what the dog’s owner says was an intentional act.
Chris McLenahan of Spanish Springs also was ordered to perform 48 hours of community service, pay a $300 fine and reimburse the dog’s owner for a $1,200 vet bill.
Sparks Justice of the Peace Kevin Higgins sentenced McLenahan on Thursday after having found her guilty last month of a misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty.
McLenahan insisted it was an accident. But the dog’s owner, Denise Bonnet, said the woman intentionally ran over the dog after she accused Bonnet and a friend of trespassing on her property while riding horses last August.
McLenahan’s lawyer, Paul Quade, spent much of the morning reading from a list of letters from friends, many of whom were in the courtroom, who called McClenahan a kind person and animal lover.
“An appeal is a possibility,” he told a Reno newspaper after the hearing in Sparks Justice Court.
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Higgins said the statute states that animal cruelty is “unjustifiably injuring an animal or being negligent causing that animal to be injured,” and she “can not justify running over a dog.”
“I have no question that Ms. McClenahan has led an exemplary life, and is a good neighbor and mother,” Higgins said. But “people make bad decisions in a split second or an angry moment.”
Bonnet said she felt justice was served for her five-year-old, 85-pound chocolate Labrador retriever named Parker.
“The guilty verdict was enough for me, but I feel it was very fair,” she said of the order for jail time.
Bonnet and a friend, Renee Serafini, were riding horses along a utility easement when McClenahan drove up in her GMC Yukon sport utility vehicle and told the women they had crossed her property and were damaging some sagebrush she had recently planted, according to court documents.
McClenahan and Serafini “got into a heated discussion” and McClenahan “was very angry” and ended their argument by saying “(expletive) you,” the records said.
She drove off, turned around and came back, Bonnet testified, and began honking her horn.
“The defendant then accelerated forward and hit Parker,” the court records said. He rolled several feet in front of the vehicle, scrambling to get up, when McClenahan “continued to step on the gas hard,”‘ hitting the dog a second time before driving off, records said. The dog suffered minor injuries and has recovered.
Quade told the judge that the dispute and incident had been “blown out of proportion” and people began attacking McClenahan with a “lynch-mob mentality” without knowing what had actually happened.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Ms. McClenahan did not intentionally hit Parker or try to hurt him in any way,” he said. “She is sorry Parker got hit and for any injuries. She would not want to see an animal hurt; she is a lover of animals as well as an environmentalist. If Ms. Bonnet knew Ms. McClenahan, she would know she is not capable of animal cruelty.”
But Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Greco said Bonnet had to watch her dog being struck twice by a woman who was angry and had “lost the argument,” and worried that the dog would die before reaching help.
McClenahan had admitted to honking her horn because the dog was in front of her vehicle, Greco said. If she is such an animal lover, “why did this gentile lady just zoom forward?” he asked.
When a deputy questioned McClenahan on that point, Greco said, she replied “I don’t know. I was just so mad.”
“She created the confrontation, and she completed the confrontation and hit this dog,” Greco said. He urged the judge to send her to jail for 10 days, but Higgins